Seyjay Harawira believes his ability to establish meaningful connections was the biggest reason he was appointed head prefect of St Patrick’s College, Silverstream.
A natural confidence to be open, coupled with the respect of his peers are sought after leadership qualities. They are also handy attributes as a caller on a dragon boat.
The crew of a standard dragon boat typically consists of 22 team members: 20 paddlers in pairs facing toward the bow of the boat, one drummer or caller at the bow facing toward the paddlers, and one steerer standing at the rear of the boat.
A caller sets the race pattern, observes the progress of rivals and is the key tactician in an explosive exercise that is often over in less than two minutes.
Silverstream’s dragon boat team hasn’t lost in a decade, and at the College Sport Wellington Championships over the weekend extended their win streak to 124 consecutive races with victory over Bishop Viard College. How does Harawira get 20 boys to function in unison?
“We break a race down into three parts: strong explosive, quick set and reach. Strong explosive is a slower paddling but involves pulling the boat out of the water and generating power. A quick set is faster paddling with less power. It’s about getting through the middle of the course efficiently. Reach brings everything together at the end,” he responded.
Such a deliberate approach isn’t accidental. Silverstream are coached by top duo Chris Fox and Baz Taniwha who have guided Silverstream to Wellington, Auckland and National titles. The long winning streak is a particular source of pride for Seyjay whose brothers Jarrod, Tegan and Braydin also competed for Silverstream.
“Chris and Baz have a real presence around the team. When they talk you listen, because if you listen you’ll likely win,” he said.
Despite completing just half of their scheduled training due to Covid isolation each member of the crew had a clearly defined role.
“The first four seats set the pace, the next four seats are where the big boys sit. We call that the engine room, that’s where the real power in the boat comes from. The boys behind the engine room keep them in check because sometimes they can get carried away and lose rhythm. It’s a great feeling when everyone is in sync.”
Silverstream aimed to better their College Sport Wellington 300-metres record of 69 seconds. They fell short of that target but were still ten seconds quicker than a talented and determined Bishop Viard team.
“It was a really good day with little wind and flat water. The boys were hyped for it. We made a really good start and led by half a boat length. Our transition from power to set was a bit shaky but we finished really strong.”
Harawira has a strong affinity with his Iwi, Rongowhakaata (Gisborne) and Te Whakatōhea (Eastern Bay of Plenty). He believes his Māori background can provide different perspectives and “better integrating all cultures” is part of his aim as head boy of Silverstream.
In the winter it’s likely he’ll appear on the wing for the First XV rugby team who are the reigning Premier I champions. Silverstream’s team will be younger than last seasons’ but Harawira is confident they have the talent to defend their title.
Interview and story by Adam Julian for College Sport Media and College Sport Wellington, March 2022.
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